Food bank usage set to climb as Canadians cope with inflation, higher prices

In March 2023, Canadians visited food banks over 1.9 million times — a 32% increase year over year, reads a Food Banks Canada report. A separate study corroborated the demand remains high and is expected to increase by 18% this year.

Food bank usage set to climb as Canadians cope with inflation, higher prices
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Desperate times call for desperate measures, as more Canadians will access food banks than in previous years to put food on the table. 

In March 2023, Canadians visited food banks over 1.9 million times — a 32% increase year over year, reads a Food Banks Canada report.

A separate study corroborated that the demand for food banks remains high and is expected to increase by 18% this year. It says the result of higher demand will force more than a third (36%) of food banks to turn hungry Canadians away.

Canadians rejoiced when the federal government pledged to counter food inflation last fall. After lower-income Canadians received a one-time grocery rebate, but nothing further, that enthusiasm diminished greatly.

On Tuesday, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters that Ottawa remained concerned about grocery prices. “Affordability is front and centre in everything we are doing,” he said.

According to in-house Privy Council research, some have described Ottawa’s measures as “insufficient” and “late,” with the government’s effectiveness teetering on whether major grocery chains stabilize grocery prices.

“Several questioned why action had not been taken sooner and with greater urgency,” said the October 2023 report Continuous Qualitative Data Collection of Canadians’ Views.

“Among these participants, it was felt that rising food costs had been an evident issue for a number of years,” it reads, “and that more proactive measures should have been taken by the Government of Canada to prevent this situation from escalating into … a crisis.”

Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 forecasts that overall food prices will increase by 2.5% to 4.5% this year. The average family of four is expected to spend $16,297.20 on food in 2024, up $701.79 from last year.

“Higher food prices have made all of us different risk managers at home,” said Charlebois. The most significant increases range from 5% to 7% in the categories of bakery, meat, and vegetables.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, more than four million Canadians get food poisoning each year. One in five residents reported getting sick, including 41% of millennials and 24% of Gen Xers.

An April 25 Agri-Food Analytics report concludes that taxpayers are not always throwing out potentially unsafe food, owing to rising costs. Nearly half (48%) of those who eat food past or nearing their best-before date are unsure of its safety, the report reads. 

“There is a fine balance between food safety risk and food affordability, and higher food prices have pushed that line,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab (AAL).

Analysts have indicated that younger generations face increasing hardship owing to inflation and rising costs for basic necessities. Many millennials have debt and mortgages, making it harder for them to afford food.

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